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Crave: Mastering the Art of Sex Toys
  • October 03, 2013 : 23:10
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My first sex toy was a bubble gum–blue, phallic vibrator that looked like it took two dollars to produce, though its price tag swore otherwise. I have no idea what kind of material it was made out of or how safe it was to use; all I knew was this visit to the sex shop was way different from previous visits with my friends. We’d usually gawk at the life-size Penthouse Sex Doll they proudly had on display (it had interchangeable pubic hair!), buy sickly sweet–smelling candles and massage oil or cruise the bargain bin for porn parodies. I remember being embarrassed that I was buying the thing. I decided to grab a happy birthday bag, a really derogatory card and a handful of novelty condoms at the checkout and chuckled nervously with the cashier, who in reality did not give a crap about me or my blue vibrator.

I ditched all of the birthday accessories immediately upon leaving the store.

Fast-forward a few years later; I wanted to have another go at buying a vibrator but cringed at the idea of a repeat of that first (and only) toy-buying experience. Then I found Incoqnito, an elegant line of jewelry and accessories that are functional both in and out of the bedroom, and felt a glimmer of hope. Maybe there was a vibrator out there for me that didn’t look like a cartoon penis, a cupcake or a rubber duck. Someone out there must be putting some much-needed attention into designing and crafting a well-thought-out product, right?

After contacting Ti Chang, the designer of Incoqnito, now merged with the Crave line of sex toys, I learned just how far some people are going to develop the ultimate pleasure products and that she was right in the thick of it. “I remember walking into a sex shop and just being completely flabbergasted, completely stunned at the lack of quality toys. It was almost as if it was a joke; I was like, ‘Really? This is all I get to pick from?’ So I thought, well, I’ve been designing for these big companies for women; why don’t I have a go at it?”

When Chang first began looking for inspiration for her handcuff bracelets, vibrating droplet necklaces and leather tassels, she wanted to do away with the “penis-shaped objects and the very crass-looking products” and instead “elevate and stretch the notion of what the typical sex toy is.”

Not long after releasing the accessory line that caught my eye, Chang met entrepreneur Michael Topolovac, which is where her story takes an interesting turn. Unlike many other sex toy companies, even high-quality players like LELO or Jimmyjane, Topolovac believed that there was something lacking from sex accessories: a woman’s voice. “I always thought that there were too many men. Most of the products were conceived of by men and usually hacked up with very few female voices in any capacity, which seemed like a major disconnect,” explained Topolovac. “I always wanted a female cofounder—a female Jony Ive, if you will—and was fortunate to bump into Ti very early in the process.” 

The most famous product in their line is the Duet vibrator, which goes for $150 - $350. It’s waterproof, very petite, sinfully quiet (they claim you could use it in a library), has four vibration modes and power levels, and is completely USB chargeable with the option of up to 16 GB of data storage. Unlike generic toy companies, the two spent years doing field research, creating prototype after prototype with their design team and developing a plan to overthrow the stigma around their merchandise. “Nobody said, ‘Please make me a USB-rechargeable vibrator!’” laughs Topolovac. “I think proximity meets design and USB is a ubiquitous power source. It’s in your computer and car, you use it for your iPhone. It’s what makes this product so modern and sophisticated like the other products I use in my life. This is silly the way [vibrators] are as of now.”

Silly is an understatement. Why is it that it took us moving into the 21st century to begin a dialogue on how sex toys are designed and affect our lives? Topolovac agreed: “Good products are well designed and it’s a glaring omission that throughout history sex toys have not been well perceived or designed, and that’s mostly about the stigma. The experience is so personal, there’s so much physiology involved, and emotion and aesthetics, and all of that comes into play. If there was ever a place that needs quality design it’s probably this category. There’s a glaring disconnect that it hasn’t happened in the past.”

Like pornography, sex toys are becoming en vogue, inching them away from the seedy novelty stigmatization they’ve faced historically. We’re now seeing sex toys from Trojan popping up in the condom aisle of the local pharmacy, crowd funding campaigns for innovative sex accessories and even stories of entrepreneurs like Chang and Topolovac in the Wall Street Journal, but they haven’t hit the mainstream yet. “I think the question is…how you bring a product to the mainstream that the mainstream tends to view as sleazy or badly designed or stigmatized. We don’t really look at ourselves—and this is not at all to discredit people in the sex toy industry—but we don’t view ourselves as part of the ‘sex toy industry’; we view ourselves as a modern brand who happens to sell products for pleasure, and we want to make those products available to our customers however they’re most comfortable with. The challenge has actually become that.”

Instead of the typical adult shops, Crave reached out to more conventional sites to carry their products, and they see other meticulously made sex toys going that way too. “Very modern design approaches, sophisticated materials and certain methodologies that you’d find in regular products based in more mature ones is what we’re seeing in the future, and that translates into a much larger market. You’re going to start seeing these products not just in your local sex toy shop but in mainstream shopping outlets. For example, one of our most successful retail partners is Fab.com. It’s not a sex toy online shop but a modern products company. I think we’re actually one of their more successful brands. I think you’re going to see a lot more of that and you won’t see much in the way of the old novelty products because many of those modern channels are not going to tolerate that, but you’ll see more and more sophisticated products.”

Crave has already dramatically changed the way we perceive sex toys.  On September 19 2013 the company announced that they had raised $2.4 million in angel funding, proving that consumers are calling for more innovation, discretion and design in their sex toys. "The industry is shifting and women are demanding more from their toys,” said Chang in the press release. “With our innovative approach to design, our commitment to local manufacturing and our focus on female sexuality, we're well positioned to deliver the modern experience that women want."

It’s safe to say that Crave has accomplished a lot in its infancy not only for their company, but has also alleviated some of the stigma that comes along with these sorts of products. I’m happy that sex toys are moving away from their novelty and being seen as more of a lifestyle product. Having a positive relationship with that aspect of your life is healthy and obviously fun too.

read more: Sex and Dating, sex, sex toys, interview

1 comments

  • Cory
    Cory
    She's combined a thumb drive with a vibrator. I must marry her.
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